The Big Tent for Israel conference at the Mercure Piccadilly hotel in Manchester city centre on Sunday November 27th was an outstanding success for the organisers, the Manchester Jewish community and the inspiration behind the conference, Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of the Whitefield Hebrew Congregation.
More than 700 people came from throughout the country to the event aimed at encouraging grass-roots advocacy and activism to counter the delegitimisation of the State of Israel in the UK.
The Reut Institute in Tel Aviv has identified five streams of delegitimisation in public life: politics, media, churches, academia and trades unions.
The conference invited speakers, experts and trainers from the UK, Israel and the United States to facilitate discussion, learning and workshops in these five spheres.
The keynote speaker at the opening plenary was Israel’s Ambassador H.E. Daniel Taub who thrilled the audience in a packed International Suite with a stirring speech outlining Israel’s many successes and achievements and castigating the lies of its detractors.
Well-known speakers at the many sessions included Douglas Murray and Lorna Fitzsimons of BICOM who delivered a rousing keynote finale in the closing Plenary telling the delegates that each and every one of them can, and should, contribute to advocacy.
Other speakers included Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute, Yakov Triptou of Israeli Trades Unions organisation, Histadrut. Bishop Dr Doye Agama, Revd Steve Williams and the Revd Alan Morris were just three of many leading Christian supporters of Israel.
The Muslim community was also represented by two outstanding speakers: Mohammed Amin of the The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and Kasim Hafeez. Kasim amazed and moved the audience with the story of his journey from anti-Semite to Zionist.
Other outstanding contributors were professor of international law, Prof. Ronnie Sabel of the Hebrew University, Marcus Sheff of The Israel Project, Andrew White of Beyond Images and Stuart Palmer – an expert in Social Media.
The presence and participation of the British Jewish leadership organisations gave a huge boost and endorsement to the conference. These included Vivian Wineman and Jon Benjamin from the Board of Deputies, Jeremy Newmark from the Jewish Leadership Council and Harvey Rose of the Zionist Federation. A video message from Mick Davis, head of the UJIA and the JLC was well received.
Local community leaders also featured prominently: Lucille Cohen of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region , Joy Wolfe MBE of Stand With Us UK, David Arnold of the Council of Christians and Jews and Doreen Gerson of Trade Union Friends of Israel all of whom were organisers of the event along with myself and Benjy Black.
There were also student and youth sessions and a special reception for students provided by the Israeli Embassy.
The event was a triumph for Debbie Marks of Qube Events who made all the arrangements for the venue and whose efforts brought great praise from the organisers and delegates.
The CST provided an amazing security regime and ensured the safety of everyone.
Reaction and feedback from the event has been very positive, and the organisers hope to use the conference to support grassroots activism in the community.
Some pictures have been posted here https://plus.google.com/photos/115830918051751848836/albums/5680436340038578081